If you want a contract where he is faithful, supportive, makes you priority, and commits for a lifetime. That’s a marriage contract. Even if you remove one of those, marriage still fits best. If you remove the faithful part, you actually do not have a contract at all. If you remove supportive, you are saying that he can be indifferent to what you care about. If you remove “make you priority,” you are not concerned about your place within his schedule. If you remove the lifetime commitment, you are saying that you are not concerned about how much time he devotes to you. The choice really is up to you. Create the contract the way that you want to construct it. But, please do not cry over a contract that you did not have him sign.
How the Contract Works
You need a plan. If you want to grow together as a team and accomplish more than either one of you can achieve alone, you need to consider the duties and expectations required of each party in the couple. That is what the contract is for. It is not about the simple shackling in the ball and chain metaphor, it is a PLAN for greatness. When you marry, you confirm that the two of you are partners in this business venture. Each of you are working to ensure the success and longevity of the business.
Giving 100 percent is the honest part of each member of your team. Whatever is in your power to do for your spouse, you should do without hesitation. I suggest pre-marital counseling to help you figure out the intricacies of this no matter how long you have been dating. Often, you get used to the autonomy and “doing your own thing” that being a girlfriend or boyfriend entails. But, just like a business, movement toward marriage is recognizable because choices are no longer made just on your desires. They are according to OUR plan.
“We can do that without being married, Dr. Wright!” But, that the risk your ruin in this business. Would you really run the risk of investing so much of yourself in a relationship and NOT require a contract? You could do it, but that choice is unsustainable. You risk giving away all of you without challenging the other person to demonstrate commitment by signing on the dotted line. Through fear of rejection, you set the stage to be rejected.
Fear of Breaking the Contract: Divorce
You determine the clauses that indicate termination of the contract. The additional feature of marriage is that your clauses must grow as your relationship grows. The conversation of attending to each other’s needs is ongoing.
For me, my spouse is first priority. Not God, not mom, not kids, my wife is first. That does not have to be your priority, but the two of you will do well to agree to a priority structure. That is the first step toward overcoming the fear of breaking your partnership contract.
My second suggestion is for each of you to get coached to identify what you want to achieve individually. Next, get coached together to identify goals you can accomplish together AND how you supportive actions each can contribute to the individual goals of the other. Commit to revisiting this support frame weekly as you work toward individual and collective goals. Date night is fine, but Productivity meetings are even more special.
My third suggestion supporting a “until death do us part” contract is that you learn to fight fair. So many grow up avoiding all conflict even the healthy kind. Get coached on how to have a discussion that leads to clarity and progress. Learn how to argue and disagree while maintaining respect and goal-orientation. The end of a healthy argument is not winning. The end of a healthy argument is insight.
One, deal with items as they arrive. This ensures that the argument is on one thing or at least current things. Two, before you argue, know what you want as solution and state that plainly. Three, check yourself when you are being defensive about YOU rather than defending the idea. You are not in question, the idea must be center in the argument. We can leave the idea, we cannot leave you. Four, you can ask to table the argument, but you may not give up. Phrases like “whatever” or “okay” are not as productive as recapping the insight you gained. For example, “I understand that this is the solution you prefer…” Finally, when the argument is over, it must be over. Not a clean slate, but the insight gained from the argument is the new normal for the relationship.
The marriage contract is as varied as the individuals that come together to create them. You CAN predict whether the relationship will last the test of time. Think in terms of a Business contract. If you can’t support each other toward individual and collective products, you literally have no Business being together.
[ Michael A. Wright, PhD, LAPSW is a father of two girls and a boy. He is also a 20 year veteran husband. He works as a leadership coach and organization consultant based in Nashville, Tennessee. With over 16 years of experience guiding individuals to their goals, Michael has the techniques and patience to help you succeed. Follow @MAWMedia on Twitter or connect for a consultation at MAWMedia.com ]